Where did they go?: Why extinct groups matter

Scientists generally agree that the vast majority of species that have ever existed are now extinct, with some estimates as high as 99.9%. While the veracity of this estimation can likely never be tested, what it does underscore is that much of life is now extinct. So what is the basis for such a claim? An important factor that drives such estimates is …

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Developmental biology: When embryos point to evolution

While scientists find evidence of evolution in fossils, DNA, broken genes, and where organisms live, few people realize that sometimes developing embryos can point to an organism's evolutionary past. This concept was popularized by scientist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), who suggested that humans, and other animals, would resemble different stages of their evolutionary history during development. …

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Pseudogenes: Molecular remnants of our evolutionary past

Genes provide the code that (mostly) makes us what we are. They are incredibly important in determining what we look like, how our bodies maintain themselves, and, in some cases, they even influence our behavior. However, genes can also 'break', and these broken genes can point towards major events in evolution. But before explaining any …

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Molecular phylogenetics: Using DNA to determine your ultimate paternity

After the discovery of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), scientists began to learn that this molecule was largely responsible for how organisms look and function and that DNA is passed from parents to offspring. Together, these discoveries explained why we look so similar to our parents, why we tend to look more similar to our siblings than …

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Biogeography: Understanding where things live and why

It may not seem intuitive, but biogeography, the study of where organisms live and why they live there, is very consistent with the theory of evolution. However, there is an abundance of uncertainty in understanding how life has spread across the globe, and it may surprise those who accept evolution to learn that in some …

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Transitional fossils: Are there any, really?

Perhaps the most damning criticism of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection was based on fossils. If organisms evolve such that their descendants adopt radically different forms than their ancestors, why don't we see evidence of this in the fossil record? As if on cue, two years after Darwin outlined his theory in …

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